Stratford partnered with the University of Waterloo for a digital media campus in the city. It opened in 2011 with 24 students. The current enrolment of 600 is expected to increase to 800 by 2019.
The technology developed by Miovision and Escrypt will allow the city to track vehicles moving through and around the 24 intersections with traffic lights.
Escrypt software in the vehicles and the traffic signals will continuously send out messages, at a rate of five per second. From the cars, the messages will be about speed, acceleration, steering angle, brake status and location, said Jason Smith, director of product development at Escrypt, a Waterloo firm specializing in embedded security.
From the traffic lights, the technology will tell vehicles the phase, timing and status of the signals, said Smith.
Escrypt consulted with the U.S. Department of Transportation on developing the standard for how smart vehicles will communicate with each other and with roadside infrastructure. As a result, a connected vehicle can get information from other cars around it and the roadside sensors.
“So it can start to make much smarter decisions on how to react,” said Smith.
Stratford is also spending $50,000 to install sensors in the asphalt of parking spots to make it easier for visitors to find parking.
“For people using it, all they will know is they can look at a phone and see how many spaces are vacant in each lot and where they are,” said Mathieson.
The data collected from parking spots and traffic lights could lead to new revenue streams for the city, better traffic management and other service improvements, it says.
“There’s lots of stuff to come from it, you don’t know what it’s going to be,” said Mathieson.
As automakers put more and more connected technology into vehicles, the Wi-Fi infrastructure along provincial highways and city streets lags far behind. Stratford is the demonstration hub for this technology.
There are lots of questions about who will pay for the installation and maintenance of sensors along the roadways. Will it be federal, provincial or municipal taxpayers? Carmakers and auto parts manufacturers want access to the Wi-Fi networks for their connected vehicles, but there are no business cases for the networks yet.
“We are going to have to find ways to use this new infrastructure, how have to revenue streams out of it,” said Mathieson.
“Who owns the data? What do we do with it?” he said. “That’s why being a demonstration hub is exciting. We are hoping to help establish best practices for the province.”
The Ontario government designated Stratford as the demonstration hub for autonomous vehicles in the last provincial budget. It is receiving $5 million from the province to help it pay for the smart intersection technology. The money is part of the $80 million the province earmarked for autonomous vehicle research during the next five years.
Recently, the city officially opened a four-acre test track for connected and driverless vehicles. It was built by the Japanese company Renesas Electronics Corp., the world’s largest maker of microchips for autonomous vehicles. The University of Waterloo is also a partner.
The chipmaker wants to have an autonomous vehicle ready for the next Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early 2018. It will be branded with the City of Stratford on one side, and Invest Stratford on the other.
“We are excited to have Stratford identified as one of the city’s that evolved this technology,” said Mathieson.
Stratford tried offering free Wi-Fi on its municipal buses, but that was a bust. Students packed the buses every morning and every afternoon, all of them trying to get on the Wi-Fi at the same time. They got off the buses complaining about the lack of service and that they couldn’t stream videos.
“That didn’t work for us,” said Mathieson. “If we are going to do a connected bus, we should worry about GPS scheduling and tracking, diagnostics, traffic management, and allow somebody else to bridge that gap about how much bandwidth you need of a 48-foot bus.”
Stratford started down this road in 2009 when the municipal hydro utility installed smart meters. The utility installed a cellular chip in each meter, blanketing the city in a municipally owned Wi-Fi network. The utility also installed high capacity fibre optic cables years ago. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the downtown, and in city-owned facilities.
That fibre-optic network is the main reason the Royal Bank located a 400,000-square-foot data centre in Stratford, said Mathieson. The Wi-Fi and high-capacity fibre also make it easy to attract doctors, he said.
“Every one of the family health teams is on the Wi-Fi and the secure fibre network, and they are able to have a quality of life they are not able to get in other small towns,” said Mathieson.
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